Object Title

Model 1810 India Pattern musket (Type II)


When peace with France was negotiated in 1802, the Ordnance saw an opportunity to replace the Model 1793 India Pattern musket (that really was only to be a stop gap measure) with a newly designed weapon they called the New Land musket. Unfortunately peace did not last; in fact it was only to be a year before Britain was once again at war. The Ordnance's plans to re-equip the army had to be shelved, and production of the Model 1793 India Pattern was resumed.

The only real change to the design of the Model 1793 India Pattern took place in 1809, the resulting weapon being designated the Model 1810 India Pattern (or the type II).

This new version is exactly the same as the preceding musket with the exception of two changes to the lock design. The cock has a more robust shape with a large circular opening at the throat. The change was made to deal with a significant problem with the previous, swan-necked design, which would snap in half during use (a known weakness for all flintlock arms using a swan-necked cock). Less noticeably, the shape of the pan changed, with the provision of a deeper and squarer cavity for more efficient use of the priming powder.

The success of this model, along with the earlier version (the model 1793 India Pattern) can be gauged by the fact that between 1795-1815 nearly 3 million were produced at an average price of 18 shillings and 5 pence (roughly £1,200 in today's money). Although the Birmingham trade was responsible for the majority of the production, the London gun trade played a part, through gun makers such as Ezekial Baker, William Parker, Thomas Reynolds and Durs Egg. According to the London proof-house records, they and others in London were responsible for producing 845,477 muskets of both models between 1803-1816, either by using the Ordnance system or as direct contracts for completed muskets.

After the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, peace was restored to Europe and as a consequence all contracts for muskets were unceremoniously cancelled, the classic response of the British government to an outbreak of peace. In excess of 700,000 muskets, stored in various armouries around Britain, were to be disposed of over the following decades, mainly to the emerging nations of South America (including Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru) as they began to throw off the yoke of Spanish rule.

The India Pattern muskets were often referred to as the 'Brown Bess' musket. The origin of the name is hard to pin down, but its use was probably brought into common usage by Rudyard Kipling's 1911 poem 'Brown Bess':

In the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise--
An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes--
At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

(Extract of 'Brown Bess' by Rudyard Kipling, 1911)

Use and Effect

The Model 1810 India Pattern, like that of the Model 1793, was stocked to within 4.5 in (11.43 cm) of the muzzle, the 39 in barrel (99 cm) being retained by three pins and the upper swivel screw. There are three brass ramrod pipes, as opposed to the four for the Short Land Pattern musket. All the brass is simpler in design, as was the lock, which aided the mass production of cast parts for the setter uppers (i.e. the assemblers). The stock is plain, and the walnut of an inferior heart and sap quality (supplies of which were still obtained from Italy, despite Napoleon trying to throttle British trade with Europe). The calibre was nominally .75 in (19 mm) or 11 bore, but the size of the ball was in fact .693 in (17.6 mm). The amount of powder to be used for a charge was recommended as 6 drams. The overall length of this musket was 55 in (139 cm) and with its attached bayonet 73 in (185.5 cm). The weight is measured at 9lb 11oz (4kg 394g), almost a pound less than the earlier Short Land Pattern musket.

During the India Pattern's service there were many in the army and within the Ordnance who were aware of the shortcomings of the India Pattern. Hans Busk (1815-1882), the author of The Rifle and How to Use It (1859) commented that the British service musket was:

'..The very clumsiest and worst contrived of any firelock in the world. It required the largest charge of powder and the heaviest ball of any; yet owing to the absence of every scientific principle in its construction, its weight and windage were the greatest, its range the shortest, and its accuracy the least; at the same time it was the most costly of any similar arm in use, either France, Belgium, Prussia or Austria.'

This was somewhat unfair criticism, written some 30 years later with the benefit of hindsight. Test results then and now show that the India Pattern was in fact no worse than many of its foreign competitors and in some cases considerably better. It should also be noted that the quality of British gunpowder was by far the best in Europe and indeed the most widely available. Britain supplied much to its allies on the continent during the Napoleonic wars.

Engagements for the infantry were traditionally at relatively close distances, often the result of closely controlled battlefield management. In 1811 an anonymous soldier of the 71st Regiment of Foot wrote of his experiences of fighting the French at Fuentes de Onõro:

'during our first advance a bayonet went through between my side and clothes, to my knapsack, which stopped its progress. The Frenchman to whom the bayonet belonged fell, pierced by a musket ball from my rear-rank man. Whilst freeing myself from the bayonet, a ball took off part of my right shoulder wing and killed the rear-rank man, who fell upon me. We kept up our fire until long after dark. My shoulder was black as coal from the recoil of my musket; for this day I had fired 107 round of ball cartridge.'

This was not an uncommon account and would have been just as true at Waterloo. If we were to take an average of 80 cartridges fired by about 50,000 allied infantry at Waterloo then the expenditure of ammunition would have amounted to over 4 million cartridges. Although not scientific, it does give a flavour of the ferocity of battle on the 18th June 1815.

In terms of performance, tests show that the musket was most accurate at about 50 yards. Analysis of 19 battles between 1750 and 1830 show that the average engagement distance for infantry was 64 yards and that closing fire, when infantry was advancing and firing, was delivered at a mere 30 yards. In terms of rate of fire a British infantryman was expected to manage three rounds a minute when in combat. Effect tests carried out by the East India Company in 1834-5 using a Board of Ordnance India Pattern musket showed that it could penetrate three 1-inch-thick deal planks set 12 inches apart at 60 yards, and then penetrate 1 inch into the third three layer set of planks. This set of results was with the service charge of 6 drams of good quality British powder. When you observe the slow motion footage of a musket ball penetrating a gel block and shattering a simulated bone you can well understand the damage that musket ball wrought on the field of Waterloo.


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edited sequence of the slow motion footage taken of Jonathan Ferguson firing an India Pattern Musket


Barrel length 982 mm (39 in)
Calibre 19 mm (0.75 in)
Country of manufacture Britain
Date entered service 1810
Loading Muzzle-loading
Overall length 1380 mm (54.33 in)
Weight 4.5 kg (9.9 lb)


Mark Murray-Flutter